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BIG 12 CONFERENCE MEN'S TOURNAMENT


March 16, 2013


Elijah Johnson

Travis Releford

Bill Self

Jeff Withey

Kevin Young


KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Kansas ¬Ė 70
Kansas State ¬Ė 54

THE MODERATOR:¬† We're joined by head coach Bill Self and student‑athletes Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, and Kevin Young.¬† Coach, we'll go to you first.
COACH SELF:  I thought we played really well and efficiently all three days over here.  I think we guarded pretty well.
We rebounded the ball well, and today was probably the poorest we played offensively the first half, and then we look up and we're still up 8 because we defended and rebounded.
I'm really happy with our guys.  Really proud of them.  Different guys stepped up each and every night.  And we played a good team today.  That's very deserving of their ranking and everything.
But I was really pleased at how aggressive we were and how efficient we were, especially in the second half.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Does this ever get old?
TRAVIS RELEFORD:  What, winning?  No, not at all.  We enjoy it, we take pride in it, and we work hard for it.  So when moments like this come, we embrace it.

Q.¬† After you had widened out your lead to a double‑digit lead in the second half, I think with less than ten minutes left they were able to get within 9.¬† What kind of adjustments did you make to be able to protect the lead and not give them a chance to get back in the ballgame?
ELIJAH JOHNSON:  Well, I think that we just played through it.  A lot of our mistakes, a lot of momentum changes that we had, they gave us another shot, like every team should do.  And I think that we just stayed into the game and we just continued to play.  So we got good results.
JEFF WITHEY:  In games like this, everybody's going to go on a run.  They went on a run and then we just countered with another run.
We knew that we had to get stops, and we started getting more stops.  Travis did a great job on McGruder.  And everybody played great defense.
And like I said, everybody's going to go on a run.  They went on theirs a little earlier, and then we went on ours.

Q.¬† Travis, you're from this area, obviously.¬† Doing this against K‑State, beating them for a third time this year, does that mean anything extra to you, or is it just another team and would feel the same if it was Oklahoma State or whoever?
TRAVIS RELEFORD:  I think how the season played out this year, I think it means a lot to us and our fans.  They have a lot of bragging rights now that this game is over.
But being from here, it was exciting for me and my family.  My teammates know how exciting it was for me.  But we knew what we had to do.

Q.  Just curious for any of you that would like to tackle this, but how much momentum does an impressive performance like this give you going ahead to next week?
KEVIN YOUNG:  I think it gives us a lot of momentum because we're playing great as a team right now, and we're starting to get a better feel with each other and players are getting comfortable on the court.
And it's just bringing us together even closer.

Q.¬† Travis, you're playing in front of your hometown crowd.¬† It also seemed to be a decidedly pro‑KU crowd.¬† What did you think of the fans today and how much did you guys notice them?
TRAVIS RELEFORD:  I think they were great from the first game of the tournament.  They've been there, they supported us, and they know how much this means to us and to them.  So we just went out and played our heart out for them and the guys right next to us.

Q.¬† Travis, when you get a matchup like Rodney McGruder and you're assigned to him, it looked like you had him frustrated early on.¬† He didn't start great, he was 2‑for‑10 to start.
TRAVIS RELEFORD:  I think the key was help from my teammates, them being aware, letting me know when screens were coming, because he ran off a lot of screens.  And I knew coming into this game I had to make him uncomfortable and be there on the catch and not let him get easy looks, and I think that was a key in the first half.

Q.  Kevin, you talked last night about tweaking your leg.  How did it feel today and did you feel like you were 100percent today?
KEVIN YOUNG:  I felt great today.  It didn't really bother me at all.  I got a lot of treatment on it.  So just going to continue to get treatment.  It probably won't bother me that much anymore.

Q.  Elijah, you guys shared the regular season championship and Travis talked about how this carried a little bragging rights for you guys.  In retrospect, did it feel that way, that you had to have this one to prove something after sharing the regular season title?
ELIJAH JOHNSON:  Well, I don't really feel like we had to prove something.  I felt it was more so for us.  They tied out with us, the same record.  So I felt like this game had to be played.
It's something that the fans wanted, for us to be in Kansas, both Kansas teams.  I think it was a matchup to play.  So I think we fed into that, and I think they did, too.
So at the end of the day it was really a championship game.  And I felt like this game had to be played to be decided.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Questions for Coach.

Q.  You guys won by a combined 59points against a pretty tough competition here.  What kind of platform does this give you maybe for a No.1 seed when the committee goes and meets tomorrow in Indianapolis?
COACH SELF:¬† Well, I don't know if our body of work or resum√© or whatever it is that they look at‑‑ I think we're very deserving to be in the discussion.¬† I think we'll be one of the for sure five or six most highly ranked teams on the seed line.
So I'm not going to make a plea that we should definitely be a 1.  We've been a 1 and lost in the second round.  Been a 2 and played in the championship game.
But it would be nice for our kids.  You work so hard and everything's the road to Final Four and No. 1 seeds get notoriety, especially with recruiting, so it would be awesome to be a 1 seed, but I'm not going to beg or plea or anything like that, because I know they wouldn't listen to me anyway.  But I think our resumé is pretty good.
I could be wrong, but I think we have 13 or 14 wins against teams in the top 50 RPI.  And I think that may be the most of anyone in the country.

Q.  Did Bruce's comments earlier in the week about the officiating in Ames give you guys any extra motivation for today?
COACH SELF:  I don't know if it gave us an extra motivation.  Our players definitely knew about it.  And the thing about it, I'll be honest, I don't pay attention what people say in front of their fans or at a pep rally or whatever to try to get them juiced up or whatnot, because I'm sure I've said some things sometimes that people could probably look at and say, wow, was that intended for us?
But one thing about basketball, the calls add up pretty equal over the course of an entire season.¬† And I was really glad personally we got a chance to play K‑State, because even though we tied‑‑ but we left little doubt leaving out of here beating them three times that we were pretty good, and we stubbed our toe a couple times we shouldn't have.
But they had a great season.  But I don't know if it was motivation for our guys, but our guys certainly knew about it.

Q.  Bill, correct me if I'm wrong, I think the other day in the U.S.A. Today article, looking to the national tournament, you talked about that you didn't expect any major upsets this year.  Why do you think the parity is such among the potential 68 teams in the tournament that it's no big jaw dropper if a low seed beats a high seed?
COACH SELF:¬† Well, the reason for saying that is that's been college basketball all year.¬† I mean, and it doesn't necessarily have to be‑‑ I mean, there's never been a difference between a 5 and a 12 if you follow the tournament.
There's at least one 12 or two 12s that win every year against a 5.  So there's not that much difference in like a seed line like that or 7 or 10 or 8 or 9.  There's not much difference in that at all.
But the thing about it is when I'm looking at this, how many 4 seeds can beat a 1?  You know?  All of them.  Or a 5 seed.  I mean, it's happened throughout the course of the entire season.  You've had 8 and 9 seeds or 10 or 11 seeds beat a 1 or 2 seed.  It's happened in every league.  I don't see why our tournament we should expect a lot different.
I think it will be great.  I think it will be exciting.  I think there's a couple of teams out there that you look at on paper and say, wow, if they play their best, they'd be hard to deal with.  There's no question about that.
But I don't know of anybody that's played their best for six games.  It's hard to do.  And certainly when we won it in'08, we didn't play our best for six games.  The key to the tournament is going to be winning games when you don't play your best.  And that's going to be more difficult this year because obviously the margin, the talent margin, has been reduced significantly compared to years past, especially with the elite teams.

Q.  What does Travis Releford give you on the wing as a defender that makes him so effective, and especially going up against a guy like Rodney McGruder that they run off screens so much?
COACH SELF:  Rodney is terrific.  He's a great player.  He moves without the ball better than anybody in our league, and he gets more screens for him than anybody in our league because of the way that he plays, the motion.  But he got 18, but a lot of them were points off of switches.  Travis did an unbelievable job on him, and I should have done a better job of maybe subbing Travis out whenever Rodney subbed out just to give him a minute or two, and I didn't do a good job of that at all.
But I think when Travis is really tuned in, I think he's as good a perimeter player as there is in the country.  I do.  I think he can guard a 1, 2, 3.  A lot of times a 4.  And I think he can guard the ball.  He can guard the drive.  But what he is, he's really smart and he understands angles.  And he did a great job playing angles today.

Q.  How important is it for your team when Perry plays the way he did the past couple of games?
COACH SELF:¬† It changes our team.¬† I mean, Kevin's not a natural scorer.¬† But you look at the production, like today.¬† Hey, 21points, 15 rebounds from our 4 spot in 41minutes.¬† That's pretty good.¬† That's better than Thomas Robinson‑type numbers, and he was playing 35minutes.
So collectively they're doing great.¬† And of course Perry, the last four games‑‑ I think he scored 55 points the last four games if I'm not mistaken.¬† So he's really coming into his own.¬† He's going to be really good.¬† But he just looks like a different guy from a confidence standpoint right now.

Q.  Coach, before the game you said to a TV reporter you needed Kansas State to be good.  How good were they and how much better were you?
COACH SELF:  Well, we were better today.  I mean, but when I say we need them to be good, we don't need them to be good in the games that we play them.  I didn't mean that at all.  I meant they need to be good because it brings interest.
You know, I've said this many times, even when Missouri was in our league, it helped us when K‑State and Missouri were both good because what it did to us was raise our level.
And we want teams‑‑ we want our league to be great.¬† We want our league to be like the Big Ten was this year, because what it does, it raises everybody else's level.¬† And our league has been great since I've been in Kansas.¬† We were the top three in the RPI I think the last five years going into this year.
So do I want Kansas to win it all or to win every game?  No.  But do I want them to be good so it puts pressure on us to be better?  Absolutely.  I think that type of pressure's good.  And I do, I think it's good for our state schools to be good.  I want Wichita State to win without question.  I just don't want them to win at our expense.
But I think that there's enough games to go around.  That's not an unrealistic view, because the more interest there is in this city, the more excitement there is and that kind of stuff, and the better this tournament is, and the tournament was off the charts.

Q.  That drought Kansas State had at the end of the first half, only had a field goal for ten minutes or so, how good was your defense during that stretch?
COACH SELF:  As good as it's been.  It helped when Southwell got his second foul because he's a 4 man that can stretch it.  Kind of play it different and maybe help more off of the cuts and stuff.
I thought our defense, first shot defense, was about as good as it's been all year long during that stretch.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.  Congratulations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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